I have three sisters, they all had very different experiences at university; socially and in terms of the courses they did.
You never really understand the effects university has on a person until you’re there yourself. I honestly believe there is no in between at university, you either love it or hate it – you may disagree with that statement but this is just something from observation.
The sheer amount of students who have become clinically depressed whilst at university or some who even commit suicide is heart-breaking; we are told that we should be having the ‘best time of our lives’ but most of the time, for many students, it feels as though they are just about surviving.
As confirmed by The Guardian ‘78% of students reported having had a mental health problem over the past year, and 33% had had suicidal thoughts.’
I think there are many reasons why students struggle at university.
Finance. There are students who are lucky enough to have their parents/guardians support them financially and this can take a load off their mind. However the money students received from student finance may not be enough for them to get by, comfortably. They may also work, that too may not be enough, and can also get in the way of doing their university work. An overdraft is almost every students best friend worst enemy; it is normal to be in it, but can seem quite taboo. Rent. Food. Books. Printing. Social events. It all adds up.
When someone is at university it can feel to some as though they are in a weird ‘limbo’; they’re not quite sure of where they belong or what the word ‘home’ really is to them anymore. They’re hardly at their parent’s house, but their accommodation doesn’t quite feel like home. The general décor and lack of freedom to make a student house, look and feel like a home, can make a person feel low. Not to mention the mess of a student house, especially when it is approaching the deadline time of year. Something can feel a little off about this space.
I think many people will agree that the second semester feels much heavier and overwhelming that the first; the work load is massive. Sure, we go to university to get an education, do lots of work and leave with a degree. University can grind a person down so much, they see no point in the degree anymore – it can turn their passion into a chore – causing them to drop out. Are tutors expecting too much? From experience, one module we once did, a tutor was complaining about the amount of work we had to do and how little it counted towards our final grade.
There is a lot of pressure to make friends at university; it is a big reason why people come to university – the social aspect. Sometimes this pressure encourages people to make friends and they have the best time, but with others it isn’t this simple. They may have social anxiety. They may not be very confident with meeting new people. This can make them feel bad about themselves and trigger more issues within. Furthermore, these are people you have just met, but how many can people trust enough to tell them they’re feeling low if they are struggling with the life of university? Can this be a problem for university students?
I’ve known and heard of students becoming extremely depressed and believing that the university life is what brought them down.
I think it is important that these people understand that university is not forever; it isn’t a binding contract for the rest of your life. Try your best to remind yourself of the bigger goal. Think about when you got the offer to go to university, what it meant to you. Maybe university life wasn’t what you expected, do not punish yourself for that – adapt to it. Make the best out of the situation that you can.
Your wellbeing is the most important thing. I’ve known of students taking a gap year from university, returning and feeling much better in themselves having done that.
If university is causing you extreme and unbearable pain and misery, it is okay to leave – as stated above you can return, but you don’t have to. You may criticise yourself for this, it wasn’t in your plan, it wasn’t what your parents expected, it isn’t what your siblings did.
But your happiness is the most important thing; what gives you happiness can change overnight.
Finally, do not be ashamed or afraid of asking for help.
If you need financial advice/support, ask. If you need an extension, ask. If you want counselling or someone to talk to, ask. If you need some time for yourself, say. If you need a good chat with a friend, talk.
I know this advice seems relatively cliché and you’ve probably heard it all before. But that’s because sometimes the only person who can truly help you, is yourself. Understand the cause of your depression and then you can work towards making it better.
Finally, and most importantly, do not compare your experience of university to someone else’s. Don’t compare yourself to a friend who is having ‘the best time’ and you’re not; because you don’t really know whether they are having the best time and everyone is different – what’s good for one person, may not be good for you.
Don’t pressure yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t keep it bottled up.
No matter what stage you are at in life, happiness is your birthright.